Michigan Association of School Administrators

Your Success. Our Passion.

Member Blogs

Blog Authors

David Britton, Godfrey-Lee
Rich Franklin, Athens
Scot Graden, Saline
Tony Habra, Rudyard
Jerry Jennings, MASA
Michele Lemire, Escanaba
Vickie Markavitch, Oakland
Steve Matthews, Novi
Mike Paskewicz, Northview

MASA members: If you have a blog that you would like us to link please contact jharder@gomasa.org

The Focus of Strategic Planning

Written by Scot Graden on Oct 23, 2014

At this time of the year, I typically review the District Strategic Plan – or the Strategic Framework – to assess progress on each of the identified action steps and goals. An article from the Harvard Business Review came to mind as I reflected on this process. The article, The Big Lie of Strategic Planning, notes inherent flaws along the path toward expected outcomes. One identified flaw is that organizations do not clearly define what they do and why. The idea is to limit risks while maximizing the odds of success.

Of particular interest in the Harvard Business Review article the guidance to avoid traps typically associated with strategic planning. Keeping the focus on the customer (the student) is critical when identifying intended outcomes. Over the next few months, a student profile will be developed. Essentially, what knowledge, skills and capabilities should a Saline Area Schools graduate possess when they exit the school system? Is the mission statement for the District the roadmap for this work?

“We, the Saline Area Schools, will equip all students with the knowledge, technological proficiency, and personal skills necessary to succeed in an increasingly complex society.  We expect that our students, staff, and the Saline community  will share in these responsibilities.
Our ultimate goal is to instill in our students a desire for lifelong learning.”

Beginning with that end in mind will guide the work of the District in the months to come.

Are "educational reformers" legitimate?

Written by Steve Matthews on Oct 21, 2014
Think back to the best teacher that you ever had.

How many teachers did you think of? I immediately remembered six.

Miss Harriger - 2nd grade Inez Elementary School - Albuquerque, New Mexico
Miss Hixenbaugh - 4th grade Inez Elementary School - Albuquerque, New Mexico
Mrs. Chapman - 5th grade Inez Elementary School - Albuquerque, New Mexico

(Evidently I had a really good experience at Inez Elementary School!)

Miss Getz - 9th grade Language Arts Monroe Junior High - Albuquerque, New Mexico
Miss Ely - 10th grade English Sandia High School Albuquerque, New Mexico
Coach Braig - Latin I and II Sandia High School Albuquerque, New Mexico

Great teachers - everyone of them.

Why did I believe that they were so good?

They respected me. I had a voice. The valued my opinions and ideas. They gave me freedom. I knew what to expect day to day. They treated everyone in the class fairly. They made me work hard. They challenged me to become better.

I thought of those teachers as I read Malcolm Gladwell's book David and Goliath: Underdogs, misfits, and the art of battling giants. In his chapter on the limits of power Gladwell talks about the principle of legitimacy.

It turns out, according to Gladwell, that leading and moving and motivating and encouraging and managing people turns on this principle of legitimacy.

Students view good teachers as legitimate. Students respect the teachers because we believe in them. As a result, we follow those teachers. We follow them to places that we never thought we could go. We become better than who we thought we were.

Students also are very sensitive to teachers who are not legitimate. These are the teachers who cannot relate to students, do not believe in students, have poor classroom management skills, do not challenge students, and who do not move students forward.

I can think of some of those teachers as well.

As I read Gladwell's chapter I also thought about the educational reform battles we are waging. Why are the battles so fierce?

It is possible that the battles are so fierce because those of us in education do not view the "reformers" as legitimate.

The "reformers" don't give educators a voice.

The "reformers" keep changing the rules.

The "reformers" treat groups differently.

The "reformers" are not actually in schools working with students every day.

The "reformers" talk about the changes that need to take place but they have never actually demonstrated that they have the ability to make these changes.

As a result, those of us in education don't believe the reformers.

Do schools need to improve? Absolutely.

But does that mean teachers are terrible, administrators are incompetent, and public schools are a failure? Of course not.

But the rhetoric of the "reformers" castigates educators. Instead of trying to listen to our voice or inviting us to participate in the dialogue, the reformers push us away.

They know best - that is the message they send.

As a result, those of us who work with students and parents every day, those of us who understand the variety of needs within the students who come to our schools every day, those of us who have committed our lives to being with and beside students, don't believe the reformers.

I am not suggesting that the reformers do not value students and that they do not genuinely want schools to improve.

But the reformers by pointing fingers and claiming to have the answers undermine their legitimacy and go against Gladwell's points on the limits of power.

As Gladwell states, "when people in authority want the rest of us to behave, it matters - first and foremost - how they behave."

Where do our public education dollars go? A comparison of Michigan's traditional and charter public schools.

Written by David Britton on Oct 21, 2014
The table below provides a comparison of revenues and expenditures for Michigan traditional, community-based public school districts and charter schools. The data is available to the public taken from the annual MI Bulletin 1014 for 2012-13, the latest data available on the Michigan Department of Education website.

As readers can see, traditional public school districts put more of their total expenditures (65.51%) into basic and added needs instruction as compared to charter schools (45.36%). This is largely due to the reality that charter schools spend more of their public money on costs such as administration as well as operations and maintenance. Because public dollars that flow to for-profit charter operators is not required to be transparent by current state law, there's little the public can do to determine what exactly those funds are being spent on. This includes salaries for teachers, administrators and other corporate employees.

In an Epic-MRA poll taken this past summer and reported on by The Detroit Free Press, eighty-two percent of respondents felt charter operators "should be required to fully and publicly explain how they spend all tax dollars received." And eighty-eight percent "favor legislation to require such disclosure."

Time will tell if our legislators are listening.

The Social Lives of Networked Teens: Obsession? Addiction? Or simply a way to get past growing parental restrictions?

Written by David Britton on Oct 20, 2014
I'm reading a very interesting book by danah boyd about teenagers' use of technology for social purposes. I just completed a fascinating chapter on so-called social-networking addiction and teens' obsession with social media. boyd concludes that much of what we (the adults) perceive as addiction and obsession is not with the technology itself, but rather with the need for teenagers to socialize with their peers. Technology is helping teens fill the void created by a world where parents are convinced (wrongly) that their children are not safe away from home or structured environments.
"Today’s teenagers have less freedom to wander than any previous generation. Many middle-class teenagers once grew up with the option to “do whatever you please, but be home by dark.” While race, socioeconomic class, and urban and suburban localities shaped particular dynamics of childhood, walking or bicycling to school was ordinary, and gathering with friends in public or commercial places— parks, malls, diners, parking lots, and so on— was commonplace. Until fears about “latchkey kids” emerged in the 1980s, it was normal for children, tweens, and teenagers to be alone. It was also common for youth in their preteen and early teenage years to take care of younger siblings and to earn their own money through paper routes, babysitting, and odd jobs before they could find work in more formal settings . Sneaking out of the house at night was not sanctioned, but it wasn’t rare either." (Kindle locations 1425-1432)
Adults increasingly have become obsessed with controlling the lives of their teens and limiting their time away from home to do what they feel is either dangerous or nothing but a waste of time. Teens see social-networking through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, texting and now Snapchat as a way to connect and "hang out" with their friends.
"Teens’ engagement with social media—and the hanging out it often entails— can take up a great deal of time. To many adults, these activities can look obsessive and worthless. Media narratives often propagate the notion that engagement with social media is destructive, even as educational environments increasingly assume that teens are networked. Many adults put pressure on teens to devote more time toward adult-prioritized practices and less time socializing, failing to recognize the important types of learning that take place when teens do connect. When teens orient themselves away from adults and toward their peers, parents often grow anxious and worried about their children’s future. The answer to the disconnect between parent goals and teen desires is not rhetoric that pathologizes teen practices, nor is it panicked restrictions on teen sociality. Rather, adults must recognize what teens are trying to achieve and work with them to find balance and to help them think about what they are encountering." (Kindle locations 1635-1642)For anyone who has been fascinated or exasperated by the teenage obsession with technology, reading It's Complicated is well worth the investment of time.

boyd, danah (2014-02-25). It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.


Written by Vickie Markavitch on Oct 19, 2014

Ed Camps are HOT. Not in the buggy, sticky, un-air conditioned way of a Camp Tonawonda, but in the hip, trend-setting way of educators onto something really BIG…

Ed Camps are collaborative learning events for teachers and administrators who are interested in sharing and/or gaining expertise on specific topics. The topics are user-generated: Ed Campers submit subject areas for breakout sessions, and attend sessions based on what they want to learn.

Need advice on IEPs? Want to teach with Twitter? Using Google Glass and wish to share? Write your topic on the big Idea Board on the wall under a time slot and your breakout is born!

Ed Camp can accommodate exactly what educators want and need to know – it is fluid professional learning produced by teachers with in-depth classroom experience. It is experts teaching experts.

Ed Camps are typically held on a weekend, and teachers attend on their own, unpaid time.

“Teachers are here on Saturday,” said Stephanie Dulmage (@stephe1234) at the Ed Camp OU kickoff at Oakland University’s Pawley Hall on October 18. “Not because they have to, but because they’re passionate about learning. They’re passionate about connecting.”

Connection is an integral part of the Ed Camp experience.

John Bernia (@MrBernia) encouraged EdCampOU participants to reach out to each other in his opening welcome.

“Today is about you, about your learning. It is a collaborative, interdependent kind of day. The goal is to talk to other educators and walk away with ‘something’ you need. Share what you are doing. Walk away with something new. Show your colleagues and administrators what you learned. There’s POWER in Ed Camp!”

Ed Camps may appear to be casual group get-togethers, but typically a lot of planning goes into the unstructured professional development to ensure that learning can take place. Wi-Fi is important, as Ed Campers frequently share session take-aways on social media – particularly via Twitter. Links to Google docs are often provided, as the docs allow for collaborative record-keeping and access to the material long after camp is over.

Over 200 local educators attended the 3rd annual Ed Camp at Oakland University, and adequate meeting space, meals, sponsors, promotion, and registration had to be planned and orchestrated by the volunteer committee. An EdCampOU BLOG was created to handle information about the event.

Talented music teachers Michael Medvinsky (@mwmedvinsky) and Dakotah Cooper (@dakotahcooper) created an epic educator LipDub video, filmed live at EdCampOU, to help spread the innovation:

To view video CLICK on IMAGE or go to http://tinyurl.com/kmlm7hd

SMALLER Ed Camps can fill the need of a department’s professional development, and also create support, communication and camaraderie among colleagues. At Oakland Schools, a ‘Consultant Un-conference’ was recently held using Google docs and Twitter. The most talked about piece of the Un-conference, however, was NOT the tech – it was the ‘With Appreciation’ cards that the consultants were given to share positive, appreciative notes about a co-worker at the end of the forum…

As educators already know, person-to-person connection is the foundation of every great Ed Camp, Un-conference or classroom lesson – and a vital part of its successful transmission.

“Share new ideas, new developments in your thinking about topics, and relay this experience to friends and colleagues. The learning and networking experience does not have to stop after today. Learn. Process. Respond. Connect.” (EdCampOU program)

More Information

How To Ed Camp – The Complete Guide by SimpleK12

EXAMPLE of Using Google EdCamp PD – via EdCamp Philly

Connected Educators (Resources!)

3 Ways Connected Educators Transform Learning – Nicole Krueger/ISTE

Connected Professional Development Is Now an Imperative - Mike Fisher/TeachThought

On Twitter? Go to https://twitter.com/edcamp_ou and #EdCampOU or #EdCampOU14 to view posts from the Ed Camp at Oakland University


Blog Editor: Jean MacLeod, Communications/Oakland Schools


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